Date of Completion


Embargo Period



syntax, linguistic typology, person restrictions, person-case contstraint, pronouns, phases, phi-features, Agree

Major Advisor

Željko Bošković

Associate Advisor

Jonathan David Bobaljik

Associate Advisor

Magdalena Kaufmann

Associate Advisor

Susanne Wurmbrand

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Campus Access


This thesis presents the findings of a large-scale crosslinguistic survey of person restrictions—a phenomenon where the co-occurrence of multiple pronouns in a clause is allowed or disallowed depending on their person value. It examines both person restrictions holding between indirect and direct objects, those holding between subjects and objects and includes languages with direct/inverse systems and person-based argument indexing, in addition to the traditional Person-Case Constraint. The study establishes a number of typological generalizations and establishes two previously unnoticed typological gaps. The first gap concerns the interaction between the strength and the domain of the person restriction. The second gap concerns the direction of the restriction.

A new analysis of person restrictions is proposed where the pronouns subject to person restrictions start the syntactic derivation unspecified for a person value, getting valued during the derivation. Only phase heads may provide a value to such pronouns by way of a strictly local syntactic operation: Agree. This analysis derives the existence of the two gaps and also explains why certain patterns of person restrictions are much less frequent than others. All this is shown to follow from independently needed assumptions concerning syntactic domains, argument structure, syntactic movement, and the timing of grammatical operations. Finally, the special syntactic status of person features, which is responsible for the existence of person restrictions, is tied to the semantic properties that set person apart from other categories such as number or gender which do not constrain the distribution of pronouns in the way person does.

Available for download on Sunday, August 19, 2029